Channing Tatum’s latest film, “Dog,” may cause the human-animal bond to fade away, but some experts fear it could lead to a more abandoned Belgian Malinois, the breed of dog featured in the film.
In the film, Tatum plays U.S. Army Ranger Jackson Briggs, who takes Lulu, a dog who served in Afghanistan, to his master’s funeral.
Lulu, played by three different Belgian Malinois dogs, is described as incredibly smart, although she does get into mischief.
the “Hollywood Reporter” review of the film said: “If the film is a success, the kennels will not be able to breed Belgian Malinois quickly enough.”
And that’s exactly what makes experts nervous.
“The biggest mistake people make when selecting dog breeds (is) they think every breed of dog is created equal like people,” Vladae Roytapel, the self-proclaimed “Russian dog wizard”, told TODAY. “They are anticipating behavior that dogs are not designed for and that is causing the problems.”
Dog trainer and owner “Say It Once Dog Training” Vinnie Somma agreed.
“The average owner shouldn’t have a Belgian Malinois,” Somma told TODAY, adding that the depiction of Lulu acting like “hell” was accurate.
Roytapel said the breed is known for its extreme agility and drive.
“High motivation, high anxiety, high capacity for work, requires a lot of physical and mental stimulation,” he said.
The American Kennel Club describes the Breed Belgian Malinois so smart and confident.
“However, problems arise when this people-oriented dog is underemployed and neglected,” the AKC states on its website. “Exercise, and lots of it, preferably side by side with their beloved owner, is the key to Mal’s happiness.”
Somma added that not mentally and physically stimulating a Malinois becomes dangerous.
“If you don’t genetically match a Belgian Malinois, they’re going to be a liability,” he said, adding that he believes athletic work should be a requirement for ownership. “This breed has a huge financial responsibility. The amount of training and the cost of that training is something people have to think about. They are not bred to be standard pets.”
Somma said even people who know dogs well should be prepared “for a whole new ball game” when getting a Malinois, and cautioned against those drawn to the well-trained behavior described. in the movie.
“After $50,000 to $100,000 of training and thousands of hours of training, (the dog) can become that. That’s why the breed is so amazing,” Somma said. “(But) the dog does not come to you knowing how to protect itself. Because it is not trained, this protection (instinct) becomes a handicap.”
Abigail Lightning-Bingham, Director of Cecil County Animal Services in Maryland, told TODAY that she hopes anyone interested in the Malinois breed in the aftermath of the movie “Dog” will do “as much research as possible.”
“As the director of a busy open-entry animal shelter and an experienced owner of Malinois, I can’t help but worry about the future implications for new owners of inexperienced Malinois as a result of movies like this- here,” Lightning-Bingham said. “Our shelters could very well see an increase in this misunderstood breed, which would require local shelters to find suitable placement.”
This isn’t the first time the big screen has created increased demand for a specific breed.
After the 1996 release of Disney’s “101 Dalmatians,” shelters reported seeing the the number of dalmatians has almost doubled the next year. As a preventive measure, the Humane Society of the United States ran campaign ads to keep Dalmatians from being abandoned.
“This is exactly what we feared,” Leslie Isom, spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States, said “The New York Times” in September 1997. “What we’re trying to convey is that Dalmatians require a huge amount of time and energy and those are things that a family with young children may not have.”
After the debut of “Legally Blonde” in 2001, starring Reese Witherspoon and her Chihuahua, Bruiser, shelters began to see an influx of the breed. A shelter in California welcomed a week-long “Adopt a Chihuahua” campaign after 100 of the small dogs were abandoned in a single day.
“While the new film ‘Dog’ is well-meaning and celebrates the unbreakable bond between a dog handler and his working dog, Malinois ownership is not for the average pet owner,” said Lightning Bingham. “Malinois are truly brilliant animals and with the proper training they make a wonderful addition to a household that can provide a Malinois with work and a real sense of purpose.”